At Complete Physio we are dedicated to keeping you out of pain and fully fit! This is the second of three skiing blogs providing valuable information about common injuries sustained on the slopes. This blog focusses on the shoulder and is a must read if you have sustained a shoulder injury. At Complete Physio we work with leading shoulder consultants and see many clients following injuries on the slopes. If this blog doesn’t answer your questions please email one of our clinic directors, David Luka directly at

The 5 shoulder injuries you’ll likely suffer

The shoulder is one of the more commonly injured body parts in skiing (only second to the knee). No matter how good you are, whether a skier or a snowboarder there will always be a time when you fall… and it won’t always be your fault!

The most common shoulder injuries during skiing and snowboarding are fractures of the clavicle (collar bone) and Humerus, dislocations of the major shoulder ‘ball and socket’ joint itself (glenohumeral joint) or the collarbone (acromio-clavicular / ACJ) joint, together with injuries to the rotator cuff tendons. Most occur during falls but can happen during pole planting.

Most falls will probably do more harm to your pride than your body but when that moment does arrive you need to make the right decisions.

If you have pain in your shoulder following a fall, it’s certainly worth taking a few minutes there and then to check the extent of any injury. Check your shoulder movement – can you lift your arm above your head? At the first opportunity take your top off (if your shoulder will allow it) and have a look (or get friends/family to have a look) for anything that looks wrong. Swelling or bruising, anything that doesn’t look like it’s in the right place (hopefully you’re not on a stretcher by that point!). If you are unsure, compare it to your uninjured shoulder. Does it look the same? Does it move in the same way? Also make sure that you can move all the other joints above and below – neck, elbow, wrist and hand. Is there any sensation of weakness or numbness?

You will have probably paid a significant amount of money to be on a skiing holiday and you won’t want to miss out but you must be sensible. Listen to you body and avoid the temptation to ski on if things aren’t right. I have seen people skiing with their shoulder in a sling! They may get away with it, but another fall could make things 10 times worse.

A dislocation will need relocating, preferably by someone who is qualified to do so (which might need to be at a local hospital or medical centre), but anything further if required can wait until you get home and see a shoulder specialist for assessment. Whatever the injury, unless it’s an absolute emergency it is probably better to wait until you get home if you are told surgery is required. Even if surgery is not required, if you are still not feeling normal on your return you should at least see a sports physio, or sports doc, with assessment and rehabilitation taking place as soon as possible.

I have known the team at Complete for almost a decade. Physios stay at Complete for a long time, which tells me how good a place it is to work. From a surgeon’s perspective they are all superb: they know what they’re doing, they know what the patient should be doing and they’re not afraid to speak up when something isn’t right. If a patient’s rehab isn’t going as to plan, they’ll be on the phone or in my inbox to let me know, and to find out what I’m going to do about it. This teamwork is hugely reassuring, better for everyone and makes work even more enjoyable.

Mr Simon Owen-Johnstone (Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon specialising in the Shoulder and upper limb)

Our 5 Tips if you get injured:

1/ Most soft tissues injuries and some breaks do not need an immediate operation. It is often best to wait, get safely back to the UK and then start investigating all the options.

2/ Call your insurance – inform them of the situation. Don’t delay or you may not be covered. Make sure your insurance has winter sports coverage in the first place!

3/ If you get X-rays, scans or other tests carried out whilst you are away – get a copy of the results. For example, if you get an X-ray take a photo of it on your phone. The more information you get the better.

4/ Get a specialist – unless it is a medical emergency you don’t want a hip surgeon operating on your shoulder or a knee surgeon operating on your wrist. Get a specialist!!

5/ Email one of our clinic directors Chris Myers – we work with world leading clinicians and surgeons and are happy to put you in touch with the most appropriate one for you.

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We look forward to seeing you soon!

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